Tuesday, 15 December 2009

EPF net buyer in banking stocks

EPF net buyer in banking stocks

Tags: Bank Negara Malaysia | CIMB Group Holdings Bhd | Domestic banking stocks | ECMLibra Investment Research | EON Capital Bhd | EPF | Hong Leong Bhd | Maybank | PBB

Written by Yong Yen Nie
Monday, 14 December 2009 11:41

KUALA LUMPUR: The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) has re-emerged as a net buyer in most domestic banking stocks, especially large-capped ones since November 2009, a significant shift from its net selling activities in the period prior starting in April this year.

According to latest filings on Bursa Malaysia, EPF has raised its stakes in MALAYAN BANKING BHD [] (Maybank) and CIMB Group Holdings Bhd to 808.7 million shares or 11.4% and 462.22 million or 12.9%, respectively.

A month earlier, EPF held 788.25 million shares or an 11.1% stake in Maybank and 441.68 million shares or a 12.3% stake in CIMB.

Prior to this, the statutory pension fund had pared down its holdings in Maybank and CIMB from April this year. At end-April, it had held 887.77 million shares or a 12.5% stake in Maybank and 623.48 million shares or a 17.4% stake in CIMB.

EPF also picked up PUBLIC BANK BHD [] (PBB) shares in November, raising its interests to 474.93 million shares or 13.4%, compared with 461.54 million shares or 13.1% at end-October.

EPF used to hold a 14.8% stake comprising 523.76 million shares in PBB but had pared down its stake in the banking group since end-August this year.

It also accumulated more AMMB HOLDINGS BHD [] shares and held a 13.4% stake or 405.35 million shares in the banking group as of end-November, compared with 395.38 million shares or 13.1% a month earlier.

EPF had been a net seller in AMMB shares since July. As at end-June, EPF had held 451.57 million shares or a 15% stake in AMMB.

Banking analysts said EPF was seen to be turning its focus on banking stocks, given the improved indicators in the financial sector and stronger expectations of an improved economic outlook in 2010.

A banking analyst with a local research house said several research houses had made overweight calls on the sector following banks’ better-than-expected financial results for the quarter ended Sept 30, 2009.

“With the anticipation of a stronger economy next year, EPF would want to have an investment strategy that benefits the most from the recovery,” she told The Edge Financial Daily last week.

The banking analyst added that while there was still some upside left in the banking stocks, most of them were approaching the target prices.

“(Nevertheless), we believe buying activities for banking stocks will continue for the first half of 2010, underpinned by stronger economic trends, while profit-taking would be more pronounced by June next year,” she said.

EPF had also accumulated shares in other mid-capped banking stocks, filings on Bursa Malaysia showed.

According to filings last Friday, EPF had raised its interests in HONG LEONG BANK BHD [] to 177.28 million shares or 11.2% from 171.32 million shares or a 10.8% stake at end-October.

The pension fund had also increased holdings in ALLIANCE FINANCIAL GROUP BHD [] (AFG) to 235.9 million shares or 15.24% at end-November from 226.02 million shares or 14.6% a month earlier. Filings showed EPF has been accumulating shares in AFG since end-June.

EPF slightly pared down holdings in EON CAPITAL BHD [] to 83.4 million shares representing 12.03% at end-November from 83.62 million shares or 12.06% a month earlier.

Recent Bank Negara Malaysia statistics showed that the decline in loans growth had bottomed in October, following a faster loans expansion of 7.5% year-on-year (y-o-y) compared with 7.2% in September this year.

In a report, ECMLibra Investment Research said the improving loans growth corresponded with a gradual recovery in economic conditions, as shown by a 1.2% contraction in gross domestic product (GDP) for the third quarter of 2009 (3Q09), which was healthier than 1Q09’s and 2Q09’s contraction of 6.2% and 3.9%, respectively.

“Going by the lending indicators, it would seem that there has been some pent-up demand for credit, as shown in the double-digit y-o-y changes in the applications and approval numbers.

“Net NPL (non-performing loans) ratio on a three-month basis remained unchanged at 2.1%, but has improved to 1.5% on a six-month basis (from 1.6% previously),” it said.

The research house added that the banking system’s capitalisation remained stable with risk-weighted capital ratio and core capital ratio of 14.5% and 13%, respectively.

This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, December 14, 2009.

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